The Chancellor will always be looking at what else he can do to support people, a Cabinet minister said as he faced questions over the Government’s handling of the cost-of-living crisis.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted Rishi Sunak has “already provided billions and billions of pounds to try to relieve the pressure”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has lambasted the Government for what he claims are “pathetic” attempts to ease the burden on people struggling with rising bills.
That sentiment was echoed by shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds, who said on Sunday he is “angry” at the scale of the crisis, arguing that ministers have not done enough to tackle the problem.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that the Government’s proposals for investing in nuclear energy should not be used as a “smokescreen” to obscure the “real issue” at hand.
“Whatever the long-term energy strategy the Government will unveil, it can’t get away from the fact they’ve got to take some action now to help people,” he said.
Asked about the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Shapps told the same programme: “We’re trying to do what we can – you’re asking if we’ll do more – I want to absolutely be clear, given the Chancellor’s record, I’m sure he’ll always be looking what else he can do.
“He’s already provided billions and billions of pounds to try to relieve the pressure.”
He went on to tell the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “I don’t rule out the fact that we may need to do more still.”
But he also suggested in interviews on Sunday that the way poverty data is presented can be “somewhat misleading”.
Put to him that hundreds of thousands more children are being pushed into poverty, he told Sophy Ridge: “I don’t want to sort of get us lost in numbers here, but poverty is divided into both absolute and relative (poverty), and sometimes the way it’s presented can be somewhat misleading to say the least.”
The Resolution Foundation think tank has said a further 1.3 million people are set to fall into absolute poverty next year, including 500,000 children.
Mr Shapps added: “I do not mean to in any way, shape or form underplay it because you don’t have to be an expert – you just look at the cost of living, as you mentioned, the increase in inflation… it’s very substantial. And that’s why the Chancellor’s already come forward with £22 billion.”
Speaking to Sunday Morning, Mr Reynolds criticised what he deemed to be a lack of action from ministers to tackle rising living costs.
“I sit here this morning and I feel angry at the scale of the crisis people in this country are facing and the lack of response from Government in the spring statement – and promises on announcements in future just won’t cut it,” he said.
Referring to the Government’s upcoming energy security strategy, he said: “The energy statement… will deal with long-term issues of supply, I understand it, it will not be about help now, and the Government has to understand the scale of this crisis.”